Carmelo Anthony Is Ready to Share the Story He ‘Never Wanted’ to Tell: ‘Another Side of Me’
Carmelo Anthony, who joined the NBA in 2003 and is preparing for his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, is sharing his life story in the memoir, Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised
When the time came for Carmelo Anthony to chose a name for his memoir, the NBA star says the title didn’t come to him quickly.
But, his eventual choice — Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised — perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come inside the book.
“When you see those words, you automatically feel it. The title is universal, it can go with anything and anybody,” he tells PEOPLE of the memoir, which debuts on bookstands on Sept. 14 and is co-written by Salon editor at large, D. Watkins. “It could be anybody’s story.”
Basketball fans are likely familiar with the broad strokes of Anthony’s life — he was raised in the Red Hook housing projects in Brooklyn, New York; moved to Baltimore when he was 8; then became a teenage hoops star at Towson Catholic High School in Maryland before transferring to Virginia’s Oakhill Academy.
After spending a year at Syracuse University, Anthony entered the 2003 NBA Draft and began a career that has included 10 All-Star nods, three Olympic gold medals, and unforgettable tenures with ballclubs such as the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, and Portland Trailblazers.
Despite his success, there’s much more behind the points scored and games won, Anthony says. Yet it’s something he never imagined he’d share.
“I’ve never really wanted to tell this story,” Anthony admits. “But I really thought that the time was now to really tell my part of the story,that most people don’t know.”
In the memoir, Anthony recalls how his early environment helped shape who he’s become.
Anthony introduces the world to 1980s Red Hook, a city he describes as a place “where danger was tangled up with beauty, and you couldn’t untie one from the other,” in the memoir’s first chapters. The book then explores the history of the area, from its founding by Dutch in the 17th century, the building of the Red Hook Houses (where Anthony would one day live) in 1939, to how it became home to working-class Black and Puerto Rican families 20 years later.
The background adds context to Anthony’s experiences, and those of his loved ones, such as racism from neighboring communities outside of Red Hook or the violence inside of it.
“I had to be patient,” Anthony says of the emotional energy it took to revisit the events of his past. “I had to open up to another side of me. I had to be vulnerable telling these stories.”
“You got to be vulnerable because you’re letting people into your world. If you’re not honest and vulnerable and appreciative at the same time, there’s no need to tell that story,” he continues. “If you’re going to sugarcoat a lot of things, there’s no need to write a book or tell those stories. So I really had to humble myself and be like, ‘Okay, listen I’m taking the gloves off basically. And I’m just letting you into my world and then into my childhood.’ “
While Anthony’s story is far from done — he signed with the Lakers this summer, joining his longtime friend, LeBron James, in Los Angeles — he knows the majority of his NBA career is now behind him. For that reason, he felt it was important to write a memoir sooner rather than later.
“I wanted it to still be relevant,” Anthony says when asked why it was the right time for the book. “I feel like I’m still the connected tissue to a lot of this generation and to the generation before. So I really felt like this time, like I had to do it right now. For me to still be able to touch different generations and still be relatable to different generations, younger and older, the time was perfect for it.”
Carmelo Anthony on how the walk to a new school showed him the difference between Black and white Baltimore
In Bolton Hill, there was room to breathe – and the best Halloween candy.
Carmelo Anthony during warm-ups before a game on Aug. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
In this excerpt from Carmelo Anthony’s new memoir, Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised, he recalls escaping conflicts with his stepfather and discovering a new world outside his neighborhood.
The tension I felt eased as soon as I exited the house and headed to class. I attended Mount Royal for middle school, a completely different vibe from Furman L. Templeton, school 125. The classrooms were larger, cleaner and thschool had computers everywhere. Even walking there was a journey that allowed me to ignore the chaos at home. When we first moved to Baltimore, my whole world consisted of four blocks. In those blocks, you would find liquor stores, corner stores, churches, a small market, our schools and the laundromat. Shopping for clothes pulled us out of those four blocks, but everything else we needed was in the neighborhood, and we didn’t have to travel far for much. I had no sense of the world outside until I had to walk to Mount Royal. Venturing to this school was like a long walk to freedom or a trip through a freedom machine. I’d leave my house and start out walking through Murphy Homes and then through McCulloh Homes. I passed all of the tattered and half-completed row houses, and then I’d pass the neighborhood we called the Bottom, right through Murder Mall and past Whitelock, where my mom’s church was. Then I’d land at Eutaw Street, which was a different world.
Crossing Eutaw Street was like visiting a different planet, leaving a Black world and walking into something completely strange and foreign. You saw something that you never ever saw in the Murphy Homes community: white people. White people jogging, washing their cars, pushing their kids in strollers, sipping cups of coffee, out on their stoops, reading the newspaper, laughing, joking and having a great time. White people were some happy motherf—–s. Once I saw an old white lady with white hair wearing a white gown and playing a harp. Like, did I die? Where was I? Well, I was in Bolton Hill, which was then and remains today one of the richest communities in Baltimore city. The neighborhood is made up of beautiful three- and sometimes four-story brick brownstones that overflow with character. There are beautiful parks and amenities for the art students who attended the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art and the many doctors, judges, lawyers, business owners, politicians and rich professionals who lived in that neighborhood, who would never think of walking through the section of the city I called home. My friends and I loved hitting Bolton Hill every Halloween, because those white people took the holiday very seriously. They had no problem giving away full-sized Snickers bars or Twix or large packs of Starburst – all pink! Who knew you could get packs of Starbursts in all pink? Money was not an object to these people, and honestly, after trick-or-treating there, you didn’t even want the little pieces of candy and old church-lady butterscotch and mints they gave you around Murphy Homes. I played Bolton Hill every Halloween and cleaned up, except the one time Duke, Kenny and I got robbed.
Carmelo Anthony during an NBA game on Dec. 3, 2019, at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Now, of course, this wasn’t in Bolton Hill, but you had to pass Whitelock to get back to Murphy Homes. It was around the time that the Larenz Tate movie Dead Presidents had come out. We didn’t really have any money for fancy costumes, but Duke had the bright idea of just dressing up like the people in the film who tried to ride the armored car. Bright white face paint, black shirts, black pants and black skullies – we had all of that, got dressed and went to work. So we had just finished collecting all of those bags of Bolton Hill full-sized chocolate bars and all, laughing at our success, when we came across a group of dudes in an alley, staring at us with hungry eyes and focused on our full bags. “Don’t worry, I know these guys, I hoop with them,” I told the group. “I’m just going to say what’s up when we get close, and we can keep it moving.”
I tensed up, poked out my chest as we got closer to the crowd, and led our trio through the alley. When we got to the end of the alley, it was like 30 dudes behind us and another 15 in front of us.
“Lil’ n—as, kick that f—ing candy out!” one of the older dudes said as they all closed in on us.
Needless to say, we forked over our bags and got out of there. Luckily, none of us was hurt, and of course, we were right back in Bolton Hill the following year, because they had the best candy. Honestly, a beating would have been worth it if we were allowed to keep our bags. The people in that neighborhood looked refreshed. They never looked beaten down or drained or weighed down by troubles the way you saw with Black people like my stepdad, Deek. The men Deek’s age in that neighborhood looked like they could jog 10 miles, play catch with their kids, then win the big account, all while maintaining a healthy smile. These Bolton Hill people looked like they did a fraction of the work the people in my neighborhood did while earning 10 times the pay. The people from my block, with their two, three or four jobs, never had time to do yoga in the park or play Frisbee with their dogs. They had to work, probably for someone else’s enrichment. The white experience and the Black experience were so visibly different, and every time I walked across Eutaw Street, I witnessed the exchange of realities. As I grew older, I’ve come to learn that this was how Baltimore works. Millionaires could live on one side of a street, and the projects could be on the other side. Those two worlds would never cross, never make friends, never acknowledge each other. Everybody was OK with it, especially the rich. This was my introduction to how racism plays out. It was also the first time I got an idea of where some of my stepdad’s frustrations came from. No matter how much he worked, he could never live like these people – and now he could barely work at all.
I loved walking through that neighborhood. It gave me a sense of power, a different type of security that I could never have back home. I knew I wasn’t rich and didn’t have a connection to those people. But just being there allowed me to breathe. I used to take the long way home. I didn’t care how late at night it was. I wanted to spend as much time in that Bolton Hill community as possible.
Carmelo Anthony is a 10-time NBA All-Star and four-time Olympian. In 2005, he founded The Carmelo Anthony Foundation as a vehicle for actionable change through community outreach programs, disaster relief initiatives and donations.
Q&A: Los Angeles Lakers star Carmelo Anthony on his new book, growing up in Baltimore and more
Los Angeles Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony, one of the most prolific players of all time, never dreamed of playing in the NBA. Growing up in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and the Murphy Homes in West Baltimore, the only thing that mattered was seeing the next day.
In Anthony’s new memoir, “Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised,” the 10-time All-Star opens up about his life before scoring titles, Olympic gold medals and the glory that comes with being an NBA great.
He takes you on his journey of moving from Brooklyn to Baltimore at the age of 8. Anthony had to grow up quickly, as violence, racism, and a troubled education system affected his childhood. Anthony said Baltimore had a different type of coldness where violence, pain, and murder were the city’s makeup. “People nicknamed this place Bodymore, Murdaland,” Anthony writes in his book.
Anthony went on to become a basketball star at Towson Catholic, which closed in 2009, and Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Despite winning a national championship with Syracuse and getting drafted third overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 2003 NBA draft, he says he still looked over his shoulder, as the past intertwined with his daily life.
Anthony recently did an interview with The Baltimore Sun about his new book, growing up in Baltimore, receiving the inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award and why he thought an NBA career could never be a reality.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
New team and a book coming out, how are you feeling right now?
For [the Lakers], I feel excited about that just because of the opportunity that’s in front of us. But I’m more excited about the book at this very moment. People reading it and getting a better sense of my story.
What made you want to publish a memoir about your upbringing?
I didn’t want to. For the longest time everybody has been [telling] me, “You need to tell your story. Your story is crazy.” But I’m like, “Nah, that’s not for everybody,” because you have to bring a lot of people around and talk to a lot of people and try to figure it out. So, I got the green light from my family.
The time is now to tell this story. Where we are as a country, people need to know the situation they’re in, but also know that there’s an upside to it, too. I thought I could be kind of that voice and reason for things that are happening out here.
When people read this book, what should they expect?
I think they should expect honesty. It’s raw, honest, [and] very authentic. It’s touching. It’s very sentimental, and it’s coming directly from me. I’m not sugarcoating anything. I’m giving it to you as if I was in my living room, talking to family and friends about my upbringing. I’m allowing you to enter that world.
The book touches on your life in Baltimore. How did Baltimore shape you to be the man you are today?
If you are in those environments, you are going to grow up quickly, whether you want to or not. It shaped me for different lessons and walks of life that I’m able to experience now. Understanding it better, knowing how to move, knowing how to make certain decisions. That’s what it did for me.
I was reading an article back in 2006, and you said, every day, you had a look over your shoulder not knowing what to expect the next day or the day after. I was wondering, during the early stages of your NBA career, did you feel like you were still looking over your shoulder, even though your lifestyle and way of living changed?
Absolutely. People used to always be like, “Melo, you’re not in the hood no more, man.” To this day, I still move that way. I am still looking over [my shoulder]. I still circle the block four times. It’s just little things that stick with you from growing up in those environments.
I was reading excerpts, and you mentioned how the rookies in your draft class dreamed of that moment, but for you, not so much. The stuff that you saw in Baltimore, how does that change a child’s perception of life?
I think it makes you sharper, but it would stress you out, too. Again to the question that you asked me earlier, I get to the NBA, and I’m still thinking about the same thing. That can be stressful when you don’t have to move like that. I mean, you [have] to be careful with whatever you do, but I don’t have to move the way that I’m moving. Regardless of who I am, there’s still a small part of me that keeps that.
How did your upbringing allow you to handle the adversity that comes in playing in the NBA?
I mean, if you can handle that adversity, growing up in those environments, then the NBA is easy. It’s just on a different level. It’s coming at you differently. So you’re able to deal with the stresses, the nuances, and the BS that comes along with it. Learning how to move, when to move, what to say, and how to say it. All the things that you were taught, and learned by default growing up, stick with you. That’s why people say, you got street smarts. Some people are business smarts, book smarts, street smarts, and some people are both.
Another thing that stood out to me was you had some pretty dark anecdotes in the book. I saw where you talked about a story where a little girl’s body was found in a trash can. Throughout your writing process, how was it to relive those in those memories?
A lot of it was me wanting to be factual about a lot of things. I knew the stories, but I wanted to make sure that the stories were authentic. So I had to go back and do my research and put myself back at that time and find out the day, the year, and what was going on. There’s a lot of research that went into this book as well.
How often do you think about your time in Baltimore?
Every single day. I can’t escape it. My people are there, my friends are there. I like to go back and be in that and touch and feel that environment. I have to. It’s a must that I do that.
You say it’s a must. Why do you feel like you still have to touch that environment?
That’s my makeup. I mean, that’s who I am. And a little bit can be survivor’s remorse. You know, not wanting to feel like I’m too far away from those people I grew up with. I had to learn to get away from survivor’s remorse, and that helps me out a lot.
I want to ask if your younger self, the one that was squeegeeing car windows for money, knew you would end up as an NBA great. What would he think?
That’s b——-. I mean, it is what it is. That’s b——-. I never thought that. If I’m sitting back and listening to my younger self, say I’m going to be in the NBA, I would say that’s b——-. He ain’t making it to [the] NBA because that was told to me. That’s the only way I knew how to operate.
You received the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Award. Where does that rank among the awards you have collected throughout your career?
That’s one of the tops because I did it differently. That award came from something different from basketball. Because of that, it’s a lot more meaningful to receive that award. That award means that I’m putting in the work, I’m boots on the ground, I’m doing what I got to do to change lives and help people. That award sits at the top of any award that I’ve received.
What motivates you to use your platform to be an advocate for social justice, speaking against police brutality, especially last year?
The fact that I come from that, and still being tapped into that world, and people have in their world. Being able to talk to them, and listen and hear them out, and give them a voice. Being in a position that I’m in now, I can do something with that voice.
That’s why doing stuff like the Social Change Fund, giving back, being an activist, and speaking up on different issues. I can do that because I’m getting it firsthand. It ain’t like I’m far away and somebody is sending me that. I’m getting it firsthand. It makes it easy for me to go out there and go fight for those issues.
Carmelo Kyam Anthony (born May 29, 1984) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He has been named an NBA All-Star ten times and an All-NBA Team member six times. He played college basketball for the Syracuse Orange, winning a national championship as a freshman in 2003 while being named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
After one season at Syracuse, Anthony entered the 2003 NBA draft and was selected with the third overall pick by the Denver Nuggets. While playing for Denver, he led the Nuggets to the playoffs every year from 2004 to 2010; the team won two division titles in that span. In 2009, Anthony led the Nuggets to their first Conference Finals appearance since 1985. In 2011, he was traded from Denver to the New York Knicks days before the NBA trade deadline. In a January 24, 2014, game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Anthony scored a career-high 62 points, setting a Knicks’ single-game scoring record and a Madison Square Garden single-game scoring record. Anthony was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he played one season before a short stint with the Houston Rockets. He spent two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers prior to joining the Lakers.
Anthony has played in the Olympics for the US national team a record four times, winning a bronze medal with the 2004 squad and gold medals on the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympic teams. As of April 2016, he was the US Olympic team’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, and games played.